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Monday, October 26, 2009

The 2007 River of Skulls, a WBC 09 Highlight!

While the review of the 2007 Calaveras County River of Skulls has been long over-due (I wrote these notes a little over 3 months ago), the timing of releasing this review could not be better. As we approach the forth coming Halloween weekend here in the states, what better wine to bring to the party than Twisted Oaks, River of Skulls. The fearsome skull face painted on the front the bottle is a warning to those who consume this wine, that they could become addicted to the allure of the wonderful aromas and flavors, waiting to be uncorked. This is one addiction I must admit I would be proud to have.

I first ran into Twisted Oak wines on a very hot in Calveras County, just a day before the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, there owner Jeff Stai, "El Jefe" was nice enough to give our group a tour of their immaculate wine-making facilities and the wine cave he had built into the side of a nearby hill. There we had a chance to sample many of their wines straight from the barrel. There winery dog proved he is also a wino at heart and licked the Tempranillo dripping from the end of the wine thief. This winery is what I would call squeaky clean, don't think I ever visited a better looking wine making facility than the one at Twisted Oak.

I was not able try this wine until we went to the WBC 09 and it was poured at a lighting-round tasting where each winemaker had about 15 minutes to pour their wine and quickly discuss its attributes with over 200 other bloggers in attendance. So the picture you see above was taken on our table while Jeff discussed the uniqueness of this wine and what I would call a very unusual, but certainly captivating label. Most of the time when you run into a skull on a bottle, it's an indication that poison is in the bottle. But in this case it's definitely not poison but a lovely elixir of hand crafted goodness just waiting to get into a glass near you.

Varietal Composition: Mourvèdre at 88% and Syrah balancing this wine at 12%. This wine is predominately Mourvèdre, a wine that does not suit every one's taste. Although the grape was widely planted in Spain (where it is known as Monastrell), it was generally held in dim regard, and it didn't command any more respect in either California or Australia and often goes by the name Mataro. But Mourvèdre has become a bit of a rising star as of late, if you love a good Southern Rhone wine than you know that the Mourvèdre grape is a huge source used in France's Southern Rhone valley, although it usually assigned a subsidiary role in Châteauneuf-du-Papes which tend to favor Grenache, but it is a primary ingredient in what many consider to be the finest Châteauneuf of all, Château de Beaucastel, need I say more? With Rhone-style wines becoming more fashionable, a growing number of New World producers are trying to turn Mourvèdre into a show horse and this where Twisted Oak comes into the picture, with a their own version called the 2007 Calaveras County River of Skulls

First Sniff: With the brevity of time to examine the nose of this wine, I found it displayed a classic nose of roasted meats, plums and spice and certain earthy elements.

First Swirl: After my glass was poured I allowed it to settle and tilted my glass toward the white table cloth to capture it's color which exhibited a dark ruby core and nearly transparent colored garnet rim.

First Sip: While I had to hurriedly sip my wine, spit than jot a few quick tasting notes about the River of Skulls which said, this wine features abundant quantities of blueberries and blackberries which co-mingle with some subtle gamy, smoky, earthy notes intermixed with hints of licorice leading to a long finessed finish.

Alcohol and Price: This wine sells for somewhere between $28 and $35 bones depending on where you shop and weighed in at 14.7% and was barrel aged 40% New French oak, 20% New American oak, 40% Neutral oak for certain amout of time. (couldn't find the info)

The Vineyards: According to Twisted Oak, "the grapes are sourced from Dalton and Angels Camp vineyard which is in the vicinity of the Calaveras River, AKA the River of Skulls. It is a beautiful vineyard out on Dogtown Road here in Calaveras and is planted with about 8 different varietals.

Other Voices: Bill Daley, Food and Wine Writer for the Chicago Tribune: Tobacco and earth noise. Some shroom? Good cherry notes nice acids like the fruit. Optimistic wine despite River of Skulls name and selling for $35. Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a score of 90 points.

My Recommendation: Since this beautiful wine exhibits stunning concentration, a lithe richness, and length I would definitely pick some up quickly, as they have only made a little over 900 hundred cases (correction, only 300 cases) so you better hurry. Jeff Stai and Twisted Oak in one fell swoop demonstrated that like the folks at Tablas Creek, they are also leading New World practitioners when it comes to producing exceptional wine from this tricky varietal. Until next time stay thirsty my friends!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Super Tuscan without a Super Price: Salvestrin Retaggio 2006

The Salvestrin Winery is what I would call a relatively new wine making venture on the vino horizon starting out in 1994 in historic St. Helena vineyards of Napa. But there is one thing which is not new for Salvestrin; producing grapes of distinction is nothing new and with having sold grapes to the likes of Freemark Abbey, Raymond, Rombauer, Robert Biale and Rutherford Hill, all who made award winning wines from Salvestrin fruit.You can see why they wanted to start their own label.

So now it was their turn, but building and maintaining a new label can be very difficult if not impossible, especially in the overcrowded and noisy Napa Valley. So with Rich Salvestrin having completed his degree in viticulture from Fresno State University in 1987 he decided to return to the family vineyard to help farm. But he also wanted to help expand the families grape growing business to include winemaking. So with the 1994 inaugural vintage of Salvestrin Cabernet Sauvignon they embarked on a new journey with their own label and in 2001 their estate winery was constructed amongst the family vines and today, three generations live on the 26 acre property. A true "familiy-run" business.

The Wine: The 2006 Salvestrin Retaggio: The name which translates in Italian for Legacy, a name that fits in with the tradition of fine winemaking coming from Salvestrin.

First Swirl: Displays an elegant ruby core, fleeing to the light cherry colored rim and copious legs coat the glass.

First Sniff: My senses are charged by aromas of ripe red cherry and blackberry fruit, licorice and subtle cocoa components.

First Sip: It's full of complex flavors, blackberry, plum, espresso, licorice, creamy vanilla accents and a touch of bittersweet chocolate. The taste is rich and smooth, the tannins firm yet supple, the finish is long and generous with food friendly weight.

Alcohol and Price: The wine weighed in at 14.8% alcohol and sells for $29 and $34 depending on where you shop.

Where to buy: The Salvestrin Winery Retaggio Napa Valley, 2006 for $29.95 La Maison Gourmet in Mission Viejo, Ca. This was the only place I could find selling this wine remotely close to the area. But you could easily find it online or purchase through the wineries web-site.

Composition: What's in the blend this well made hand-crafted Super Tuscan styled wine?45% Sangiovese, 35% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon & 5% Petite Sirah and this wine was barrel aged 18 months 75% French—25% American 25% New Oak.

Soil Type: Their estate vineyard is composed of two identifiable soil types, Cortina and Bale and ideally suited to wine grape production.

Wine Making Approach: According to Rich Salvestrin,"To maximize the flavor profile in our grapes, we attempt to balance sunlight, canopy, crop load and water on a given site and once the grapes are in the winery we take a minimalist approach with as little intervention as possible."

Other wines of note: 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard. 100% Estate.

My Recommendation: This wine makes pairing very simple, because of the supple tannins it makes a fine food companion and will pair nicely with just about most menus. A well made wine, drink now and often! I would score this wine 91 points, if I was in the wine scoring business, suffice it to say this is a excellent effort. This a wine to stock up on and a overall great value for the money. This is built to age a few more years if you can wait that long. But for the patient it will reward your palate.

Full Disclosure: Megan Gordon who I know from Facebook sent me a couple samples for review. One which I have not opened yet and the other is the Salvestrin Winery Retaggio 2006 I was very pleased from the very moment I opened this Super Tuscan inspired wine, the lingering smell of coming attractions!

QPR status: This is what I would call a budget Super Tuscan compared to some of it's peers in Tuscany. For example, the highly sought-after Ornellaia, will set you back a wallet emptying $100 for the 2000 vintage or even if you looked at Brancaia or the Promis this wine compares quite favorably. Now while this wine is only inspired by Super Tuscan styling, you can really get a sense of having a Super Tuscan without the super-price selling for $26.99 -$30.00 each it is a great value!

Other Voices: Excerpt from a happy customer via YELP "Salvestrin is the silver lining to the cloud of overtly-commercialized wineries in Napa. No standing around the tasting room bar being ignored like other wineries in the area. My brother, his wife and I turned into the driveway at Salvestrin and even though there were signs saying tastings by appointment only we were immediately greeted and invited into the tasting room. We stayed for about an hour and tasted all of their wines. The girl who runs the tasting room was awesome, very sociable and also told us a lot about the wines and the Salvestrin family. They have a great cab and their petit syrah is only available to their wine club because its so popular. Luckily we were able to get one of the few bottles left. They waive the tasting fee if you buy a bottle. If you're in Napa go visit Salvestrin." -Philip H.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Inaugural Release of the Cruz Andina Malbec 2006

Hey Malbec Fans I want to introduce you to the Cruz Andina 2006 Malbec. While this wine may be the new kid on the block, the vineyard where these grapes were sourced from comes from vines planted in 1948 well before I was born, so some sixty years old. This is their inaugural release of Cruz Andina, it is a project of Augustin Huneeus, who produces other QPR styled wines under the Veramonte label, wonderful wines from Chile and on the other end of the spectrum high-quality Napa Cabernet from Quintessa, in Napa Valley. Which I had a chance to visit this past summer at the Grand Tasting Event during the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference. If you find yourself in Napa, Quintessa is a great place to stop, highly recommended!

While this may make them the new kids on the block in terms of producing Malbec from what has become the iconic home of Malbec, the Pulenta Family has been making wine in Mendoza, Argentina for generations and it's here that Agustin Huneeus had his interest fueled and realized a dream he and his father shared for making a wine on the other side of the Andes.

The Wine: 2006 Cruz Andina Malbec, as mentioned earlier is a blend which means it's not pure varietal.

Varietal Composition: The wine expresses Malbec’s exceptional concentration with a soft, supple texture at 85%. Cabernet Sauvignon at 10.5%, Merlot at 3% and Bonarda at 1.5% are blended for complexity, structure and delicate mouthfeel.

First Swirl: In the glass there's a beautiful shimmering nearly opaque core of garnet color, fleeing to the cerise colored rim.

First Sniff: After the wine had been decanted for about an hour or so, I poured the wine in my glass and gave it a couple of good swirls, it offered up superb aromas of toasty oak, violets, mineral, black currant, blueberry, and black cherry.

First Sip: Out onto my palate like a layered cake this wine hit me with gobs of ripe fruit, a plush texture, outstanding balance, and several years of aging potential (not that many buyers will be laying this down). This lengthy, plush effort over-delivers and then some!

Full Disclosure: This wine was a sample sent to the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog for review.

The Wine Maker: Álvaro Espinoza who had been working with them at Veramonte. According to WS, "Espinoza is one of Chile’s most talented winemakers (he also gets most of the credit for helping to sort out the Carmenère/Merlot mix up in Chile)" great credentials!

His Approach: In referring to their reasons for having him onboard for this new project it was stated, "Espinoza has a minimalist approach to winemaking and a sensibility for producing elegant wines" which means he's the perfect fit for the style of Malbec Quintessa desired to produce". When I read that statement, before I tasted the wine, I took an subjective step back and thought this going to be an old-world style of wine. After evaluating the wine, nothing could be further from the truth and my pre-formed opinion was instantly changed by the sheer caliber of this wine and apologies to Alvaro, but there's nothing minimalist about this wine, except perhaps the method of production, meaning bio-dynamics. In which case there is a minimalist style in the approach of farming techniques, which does not carry over to what goes into the bottle.

The Vineyards: While the Cruz Andina Malbec comes primarily from the Pulenta Vistalba vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, whose vines are some of the oldest in Mendoza, planted in 1948, at about 3200 feet in the Lujan de Cuyo appellation. Other Malbec fruit was sourced from the Los Alamos area. This wine is a blend and grapes for the other players Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon come from the Los Alamos vineyard in Uco Valley, an appellation just south of Lujan de Cuyo 80 miles from the city of Mendoza. The Los Alamos vines are 25-years old and at an altitude of nearly 4,000 feet above sea level.

Aging and Release Date: This wonderful Malbec spent 16 months in 100% French oak, only 30% of it was new and was just released for sale September 2009. This means if I am doing my math correctly that this wine has been in the bottle for a little over 20 months. The 2006 Malbecs are drinking wonderfully right now!

Price and Alcohol: This wine sells for just under $20 and can be found at Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido. By the way this was the only store in San Diego where I could find this label. The alcohol is 14.5% with no signs appreciable 'hotness'.

Climate and Soil: The area’s well-draining alluvial soils and constant breeze from the Andes moderates growth and provides intensity and concentration in the grapes.

Recommendation: Another QPR Winner! With only 900 cases made and selling for a paltry $20, it would behoove the savvy shopper to buy as much as they can afford. Once the word about this wine gets out and I've already seen a few other reviews on this wine, it's going to sell out very quickly. With nearly three years of separation between vintages, it will be a long wait for 2010, so run don't walk and grab yourself some these great values.

Other Voices: Robert Whitley of Whitley On Wine radio had this to say: Cruz 2006 'Andina' Malbec, Argentina ($19) — An absolutely stunning Argentine malbec for the money, Cruz Andina impresses visually first, with an inky purple hue as it splashes into the glass. The palate is voluptuous, showing layers of blueberry and blackberry fruit, licorice and spice with firm structure. This lip-smacking red seals the deal with a long, sensuous finish. Rating: 92.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Orin Swift’s Proprietary Blend The Prisoner, the stuff of Legend

Geez the stuff of legend? Really, you may have been asking yourself as you're reading this review. But according to many that is exactly is what this wine represents. Frankly, this is the first time I have ever been able to try this wine for myself and boy right out of the bottle, no decanting needed this wine is a game changer.

I have read about it many times and have always wanted to try, but no samples were fourth coming to this humble little wine reviewer from San Diego. I this purchased from the Wine Vault and Bistro here in San Diego, where I purchased the last two on the shelf for a about $32 each.

Now, you may have heard of this wine before or have seen it on the shelf yourself and wondered what is in the bottle as you won't find a description on the bottle, except one phrase "Red Wine", which is not very descriptive at all. I guess your just suppose to just know or pick up your cell and give them a call or look it up online.

With that said here's the 411 on what's in bottle, this wine is predominantly Zinfandel with a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blended in, and its composition varies year to year. If you are a huge fan of Zinfandel like me, than you'll want to get your hands on a few bottles of this wine. As it's right up there with the best California Zins which can cost twice as much. This means in my book, that this wine earns the coveted QPR award from the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog for being easy on the wallet and plush on the palate. What else could you ask for?

Many folks are also interested [or puzzled by] in the very different label artwork, which features a man in chains. The image is inspired by an original etching depicting a prisoner in chains Dave Phinney received as a gift from his mother and father (Orin and Swift) and thus you have Orin Swift Cellars Wines. This disclosure also highlights from where the name of the winery is derived. If you are interested Orin Swift also has four other labels and they are Mercury Head Veladora Papillon and Saldo. I will warn you right now, those other labels are quite pricey, so if you fall in love with the Prisoner and seek these other labels, remember you've been warned.

Swirly, Swirl: In the glass this features a lovely garnet colored core, segueing to a cerise toned rim.

Sniffity Sniff: On the nose you will find generous high-toned raspberry, blueberry and red cherry fruits, violet-floral, candied plums, creamy oak, and an overall sweet appeal, that really draws you in and is verified on the palate.

Slurp: Stated simply, this wine is plush and ripe, a decadent wine with excellent structure and great complexity and a deep consistent finish. A more precise note from the winemaker, "this wine has a creamy vanilla canvas, toffee and blue berry notes are scrawled over the mid-palate while the flavors shift toward sweet pomegranate and deep red fruits flavors", okay I agree. The finish is lingering and never less than silky, and the mouth watering acidity keeps the wines fruitiness from overstating itself.

Composition: The 2007 Prisoner blend is 50% Zinfandel, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah and a dash of Charbono and Grenache or should I say it appears they threw in the kitchen sink as well. Regarding Charbono, I have to admit that variety was new to me and I had to look it up.

The Vineyards: Grapes are sourced from Oakville in Napa, California

Price and ABV: This wine sells anywhere from $32 - $38 and weighs in at 15.2 %, which I worried about a bit initially, that it would be a little hot, but nothing could be further from the truth. Smooth barely describes the way this wine glides across your palate, a beam of seamless perfection from the first pour to the last drop.

My Recommendation: Run out and grab yourself a few of "The Prisoner" for yourself, you won't be dissappointed. It is a wonderfully well built wine that will age nicely for a few more years. A great wine to give as a gift to someone you know who's maybe afraid of "Red" wine, or that White-Zin drinker you know or just a great wine to have around for when you may want to impress friends or clients.

This wine sells in the thirty dollar price range which a great deal for the caliber of wine you are getting. What ever the case you will enjoy this wine immensely, but don't take too long as this wine sells out quickly. After tasting this and sharing with my wife, the only Prisoner being held is my palates affection for a wonderfully well built and delightful wine, until next time sip long and prosper, cheers everyone

Other Voices: According to the Wine Spectator: This wine offers both style and structure, with lively aromas of black raspberry, cracked pepper and mocha, with plush and layered flavors of wild berry, fresh sage and licorice. Ripe tannins sneak in on the finish. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Grenache. Drink now and drink oftern, the folks at WS scored it 92 pts.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Preview of Ivy Hotel's new Ultra Lounge and Wine Bar

Just a couple weeks ago I received an invitation to preview the new Ivy Ultra Lounge and Wine Bar located in the Ivy Hotel, which is one of San Diego's luxury hotels located in the heart of Downtown San Diego. Inside this 'new' wine bar you'll find row after row of Enomatic type machines made by Napa Technology where guests are able to explore 80 different world wide wines on the menu and at their leisure. There is no pressure, just grab yourself a glass and tell your server or bartender you'd like to purchase a Smartcard. This card which is very much like a pre-charged debit card allows you drop x-amount of dollars on the card and then you’re off to races. After your taste is poured directly into your glass, glance upward to the digital display and it will let you know your balance so there is no embarrassment when you try to pour yourself a taste and are informed that your request was denied. Oh, don't remove your glass to quickly as there is a small hiccup at the end the pour that you won't want to miss.

The Tasting Menu: Each guests will have an opportunity to enjoy wines ranging from high-end “cult” and boutique varietals to the tried-and-true (where I saw a few grocery store wines as well), without paying for steep bottle prices. This type of operation allows guests to explore the wines in three different formats, which are Taste (1.5 oz.), Half (4 oz.) and Full (6 oz.) glasses at the perfect temperature from Napa Technologies new high-tech, interactive enomatic wine machines found in the Ivy Hotel's new Ultra Lounge and Wine Bar.
How does it work: According to Napa Technology WineStation with its patent pending CleanPour ™ hygienic dispensing head technology, WineStation delivers the first time taste the wine maker intended, every time, for up to 60 days (using argon or nitrogen gas) and even lets you prepare, preserve and store your favorite wines when they are out of the unit.

The Jury is still out: Not completely convinced that the wine station or the Italian made Enomatic - Wine Serving Systems deliver as promised, "the first taste the wine maker intended every time". Making a comparison of a newly loaded wine (just uncorked) and the other wines which were in the machine for days, I still found the wine which just uncorked to be a fresher by comparison to the one held fresh by argon gas.

The wine list: Eighty different wines on the list range in price from $1.76 for a Taste of the 2007 Willamette Valley Riesling produced by Willamette Valley Vineyards (Oregon) to a full glass of the 2004 Opus One (Napa Valley) for $28.47. They also have a nice selection of Port available for you to explore. These high-tech Wine Stations are designed to keep each vintage at peak freshness, allowing you to create your own tasting experience with a touch of a button. A few of the highlights are; Opus One, Peter Michael “La Carriere” and Shafer “Hillside Select” and a few lowlights the Qupe entry level Syrah.

Price Comparison: Let's take the Opus One (Napa Valley) at $28.47 for a 6 oz. pour times 4.23 (which is 6 oz. divided by 25.4 oz.) and considering there are about 26 and two third ounces of wine in each 750ml bottle and you come out with $120.52 per bottle which is a fantastic price! The lowest price I could find online was $149.00 and the highest price was $189.00. Not sure how they are getting such a great price per bottle, but that is a great benefit for the those wanting to experience a high caliber wine, without the high caliber price tag.

The other side of the Coin: Ah yes the other side of the proverbial coin, do the math. If you take the other wine in this article, the 2007 Willamette Valley Riesling produced by Willamette Valley Vineyards (Oregon) which can be found online anywhere from $8.99 to $10.99 per 750ml bottle and if measured out for $1.76 for a 1.5 oz. pour, which divides into 25.4 ounces (750ml) and equates to 16.9 tastes and that bottle is now $29.74 ouch! So to get the most "bang" for the buck, it would behoove you to go for the full pour.

Enhancing the tasting experience: While you taste the various wines you are invited to munch on some of their lovely appetizers. The highlights that evening included a Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza, Chacuterie Plate, Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon with Grated Parmesan and Duck Rillets, which were all wonderful. The Executive Chef of the Ivy Hotel, Nathan Coulon created an interesting range of appetizers designed for wine-pairing and some of those wonderful treats were sampled that evening. Wine-friendly desserts include Strawberry Semi-fredo, Macerated Grilled Peaches and Belgian Chocolate Torte. Now while these appetizers are designed for pairing, it's not necessarily clear which item pairs with what, that guess is left up to you.
Wrapping Up: This is a great place to grab a glass of wine and relax with friends, as they have abundant seating from tables to comfy couches. They also have lovely restaurant to dine in and a place to go dancing if you feel like kicking your heels later. With at least 80 wines by the glass, it represents a good opportunity to try many different wines without the commitment of a whole bottle. If your downtown and would love to just grab a great glass of wine by the glass, I would highly recommend dropping by. Until next time cheers everyone!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Grape Expectations, The Montes Live Taste!

Check SpellingThe Montes Live tasting and Webinar, it was just a couple of weeks ago now and after going through my tasting notes and sorting out some of my other projects, I thought it was high time I got the write up done for Montes as they were kind enough to extend an invitation for me to sit on this very informative multi-media webinar.

The Napa Connection: Montes Winery who, as many of you know has been producing wines of distinction from Chile for many years now, has branched out and has established a few new labels. One is in Napa, with grapes being sourced from Coombsville, Yountville, Oak Knoll and the very well known Oakville area. The label for this project is in keeping with their "Angel" theme calling it Napa Angel and Napa Angel Aurelio's Selection which represent their 2006 realease. These wines were produced at the Artesa Winery in Carneros, with the help of a consultant a Mr. Larry Levin, who was formerly the winemaker of Franciscan Vineyards. Many wonder why with all the success in Chile, why would they want to come to Napa to make wine? Good question, Aurelio Montes Sr (Chief Wine Maker) explained their reasoning this way, "to create our own Napa wine has been a long cherished dream as Napa Valley is the wine jewel of the New World's Northern Hemisphere." Aurelio Sr, also describes Napa this way, "it's one of the cathedrals of winemaking" along side the likes of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Piedmont. Those are both interesting quotes representing his profound respect for other wine making regions in the world and one I can fully appreciate.

The 2006 Napa Angel Aurelio's Selection: This wine represents their premium label and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with the fruit sourced from Oak Knoll and Yountville and retailing in the neighborhood of $90 with Michelangelo-like art on the label. Micro Review: I found this wine to be a deep dark well of ruby color, well structured, nice mouth feel and layered with rich red berry fruits and a hint of smoked tobacco, leading to a plush long finish. I would recommend some more to time in the bottle, for further benefit and total case production of just a little over 4000.This is not your everyday drinker but could be purchased for special occasions or as a gift to good friends or special clients.

The 2006 Napa Angel: This wine represents a more immediately approachable wine and is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the fruit sourced from Coombsville and Oaknoll in Napa. The other 10% is Syrah from the Knights Valley in Sonoma. Retailing in the neighborhood of $50 and featuring a playful Cherubic face with wings. Micro Review: This wine also had a very deep dark ruby colored core, in the mouth layers of ripe red plums and cherry's, broad shoulder in structure, with subtle notes of cedar and roasted vanilla notes mingling ever so nicely on the long smooth finish. This could be a weekend wine that you open when you have friends over or just want to celebrate the end of a long week, with something from the BBQ. No need to rush out and find this wine with over 8000 cases being made, but a wine of this caliber won't last too long either, so do yourself a favor and grab a few soon.

The Argentinian Connection: So what led Montes to Argentina? Could it be perhaps the search for a new and improved excellent terroir sites outside the borders of Chile or is it perhaps the lure of the rising tide of Argentinian Malbec in the US, as reported by the The Wine Economist which stated, "In the same issue the results of the Nielsen company wine market survey for the period ending 2/7/2009 are reported and goes on further to report that "Argentinian table wine imports were up 40% by dollar value for most recent year." This compares to a 10 percent increase for Chile, one percent for Italy and a one percent decline for Australia in US markets. That being said, and I sure some of both were a factor in the decision making, Montes is committed to "preserving the true intent and expression of the terrior and climate" of Argentinian wines. Montes is producing three labels from Mendoza which are the Reserve Malbec and Ultra Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines reviewed for the webinar are the 2007 Kaiken Reserve Malbec and the 2007 Kaiken Ultra Malbec.

The 2007 Kaiken Ultra Malbec: This wine represents the 20 plus year old vines from the Uco Valley, just outside the city of Mendoza. Micro Review: In the glass there is lots of color - dark inky hues of purple dominate, then give way to shades of violet on the rim. The nose has a roasted, sweet coffee and caramel aroma mingled with bright fresh floral notes and ripe berry fruit. The 2007 Kaiken is a full-bodied Malbec just bursting with red and black fruit flavors, predominately cherry and blackberry, from the first splash to hit the palate to the well-honed finish it is just wonderful. The flavor profile is full of fruit - dark berries and plums, softly restrained with delicate tannins and enveloped in spicy cloves. This Malbec lovely and is perfect for year round consumption and can be found just under $20 most places which makes this wine easy on the wallet as well. Your food pairing options are really endless, as this wine offers many things to many people.

The 2007 Kaiken Reserve Malbec: This wine represents what I would call a QPR winner! It's a blend of 90% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes were sourced from 15 year old vines in the first zone just outside Mendoza. Micro Review: In the glass you find a deep violet color, warm oak nuances and spice in the nose, with notes of ripe red fruit. In the mouth it displays a wonderful attack of fleshy tannins; while at the same time it's silky mouth feel, followed by a long caressing finish. Overall impression this wine represents a harmonious connection with the wood, which makes this wine a fine example of the Mendoza terroir. Kaiken Malbec - KAIKEN WINES can be found at many local retailers and this wine sells in what I call the bargain range, coming in around $10-14 dollars depending on where you shop. This is a wine to purchase by the case.

The Re-Discovery of Carménère: Often referred to as the long-lost grape, carmenère had all but disappeared from its original Bordeaux home in the late 1800s during the rise of phylloxera. In fact, it took another century after it was originally imported from Bordeaux before carmenère was rediscovered flourishing, albeit covertly, in Chile. It wasn’t until 1994 that French professor of Oenology Jean-Michel Boursiquot determined that some of the Merlot growing in Chile wasn’t Merlot at all but rather the long-thought-gone Carmenere. Four years later, the Chilean government officially recognized Carmenere as its own separate varietal and it’s been thriving ever since.

Carménère it used to be big, really big one of the six “noble” red grapes allowed in Bordeaux wines, which is no small feat. Okay Carmenere wasn’t quite as big as I've eluded to here and it didn’t command its own 100% varietal wines just yet, but it did hobnob with other famous grapes like Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot and it cozied up to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon like peanut butter did to jelly. Carmenere has enjoyed quite a renaissance in Chile. Despite the fact that Cabernet is the most widely-planted grape in the country, Chile has become synonymous with Carmenere, as it is the only country that grows the grape in any volume of note, although you will find it other places, but not in signifcant quanities. Which brings us to third part of this "live" online tasting which included the 2006 Montes Purple Angel and the 2007 Montes Alpha Carménère, which is the first time and I had the great pleasure to be reviewing these two wines side by side.
Montes Purple Angel 2006: This wine is composed of 92% Carménère and 8% Petite Verdot from the Colchagua Valley. Half of the Carménère fruit and all the Petite Verdot was sourced from the La Finca De Apalta Estate, while the other half of the Carménère comes from the Montes Archangel Estate in Marchigue. After aging in new French Oak barrels for 18 months, it was bottled and laid down a year before release. Micro Review: In the glass it's dark as night in the bottle (the bottle itself weighs at least 2lbs) and glass, darting to a violet colored rim. In the nose you find, red currants and big hairy red raspberries with definite notes of Creme de Cassis in there as well mingling with scents of bittersweet chocolate. After the first sip, black currants, blackberries and pomegranate pulse upon the palate. The dark fruits dissolve and then evolve upon your palate into even darker flavors as the wine sits in your mouth: more semi-sweet chocolate, tobacco, fennel. The richness of Carmenere won’t and can't be denied, although there will be one notable thing missing from the profile, tannins. That’s the beauty of a well made Carmenere: you never know what you’re going to get, but you’re going to want to come back for more and more again and again. With a $59 dollar price tag it maybe an indulgence not often experienced, but definitely not ruled out!

The 2007 Montes Alpha Carménère: This 2007 is said to be one of the best in the last 25 years. It's has a slightly different profile than the Purple Angel, with a blend of 90% Carménère and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sourced from the Archangel Estate located at the western end of the Colchagua Valley and only 11 miles inland. One of the best things about this wine is the very approachble price tag, weighing in at the $19-$23 price range which makes this wine another QPR winner. I even liked this wine better than its more expensive cousin, it could be that this wine had the highest residual sugar of any wine that day at 2.85 and total acidity of 3.42. Micro Review: In the glass this wine had a deep red core, nearly opacue and a violet colored rim. In the nose you could almost feel the black berries and spice notes tickling your nose, while on the palate, well integrated truffles, red fruit and tobacco skating upon a very soft and smooth finish. This is a winner and one to stock up on for sure, if you have never had one of this wines, do yourself a favor and get on down to your favorite wine shop and confidently ask for a Carménère, you may just get a blank stare. Until next time cheers everyone!

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